Government announces Ita Buttrose as ABC chair

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed Ita Buttrose will become chair of the ABC.

His announcement follows speculation on Monday that Buttrose, a former magazine and newspaper editor, was the leading candidate for the role.

Morrison said Buttrose was an outstanding candidate to steer the ABC as chair: “Ita is an extraordinary Australian who will bring decades of media and management experience to the ABC. I can think of no-one better to lead the national broadcaster.”

Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said Buttrose would be only the second woman to chair the ABC after Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE in the early 1980s.

“After a difficult period for the ABC, Ita Buttrose is someone Australians know and can trust to chair the national broadcaster,” Minister Fifield said.

Buttrose was the founding editor of Cleo in 1972, and went on to hold senior editorial roles at The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Australian Women’s Weekly. Until last year, she was also a co-host of Network Ten’s morning show, Studio 10.

When speculation mounted on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the ABC Buttrose was “an extraordinary Australian”.

“An Australian of the Year, and there have been few people more than Ita that I think have lifted the standards of journalism in this country. I think that says a lot about her character and her abilities,” Morrison said.

The journalist, Paul Kennedy, said the newsroom had been “pretty positive” about the prospect of Buttrose as chair.

Australian media commentator, Mike Carlton, also said he would “give her a chance”.

On her appointment, Buttrose said: “The ABC is one of the most important cultural and information organisations in Australia and I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead it.”

Acting ABC managing director David Anderson said Buttrose would provide valuable strategic leadership at an important time for the national public broadcaster.

“I join with all ABC employees in welcoming Ita Buttrose to this important role,” he said. “Ms Buttrose is an eminent Australian with vast experience as an editor and media executive. Her leadership of the ABC, a highly valued and trusted cultural institution, is welcomed.

“In an era of globalised commercial media, a strong independent ABC is vital. We remain committed to outstanding news and current affairs, hosting conversations that inform the public, and delivering compelling content that is distinctive, high-quality and Australian.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Kirstin Ferguson for her strong commitment to an independent ABC and the ongoing leadership and governance she has provided during her tenure as acting chair.”

Dr Kirstin Ferguson, who will continue as deputy chair, said the ABC Board looked forward to working with Buttrose.

“Ita Buttrose is one of the greats of Australian media – and an iconic, widely admired Australian,” Dr Ferguson said. “She will bring valuable experience to the ABC Board at a time when we will need to make significant strategic and leadership decisions, including the appointment of the new managing director, in coming months.

“I am honoured to work with her in my capacity as deputy chair and I know the entire board looks forward to working with Ms Buttrose on critical issues facing the ABC.”

The confirmation from the Cabinet marks the end of a five month search for a chair, after Justin Milne was forced to step down amid internal and external pressures. Milne was supposed to chair the ABC until 2021, however resigned after it emerged he was seen to have pressured the recently sacked managing director Michelle Guthrie to “get rid” of prominent journalist Emma Alberici. At the time, questions were raised about political interference at the ABC and staff passed unanimous motions demanding he stand aside.

A managing director for the ABC has not been appointed, after it sacked Guthrie in September. Guthrie is currently suing the ABC, alleging it breached the Fair Work Act (2009). 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.